Ephesians can be divided into two main parts: the first three chapters explicate Christian doctrine while the latter three chapters explain Christian duty. Chapters 1-3 put forth our riches in Christ; chapter 4-6 point to our responsibilities in Christ. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul begins to unpack the normal Christian life.
A United Walk (1-6)
Christians are to walk together with Christ in unity and peace.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
I…prisoner for the Lord: see 3.1. Literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Therefore points back to all that Paul has written concerning the rich salvation provided in Christ (chs. 1-3).
I…urge you…have been called: Paul earnestly requests his brethren to soberly consider their calling from God in Christ and walk accordingly. To walk in the NT typically has reference to the whole lifestyle of the person. So a worthy walk would be one in keeping with appropriate Christian behavior. This is similar to what Paul told the Corinthians: “Consider your calling” (1 Cor 1.26). Think about the “holy calling” (2 Tim 1.9) you have received of God. Earlier in Ephesians (1.18) we get a glimpse of this calling: the confident expectation that we are the glorious inheritance of God. Since this is such a high/holy calling, live a life fitting or proper in regards to that calling. “True grace in the heart must show itself by true godliness in the life” (PC 146).
“Obedience is always a response to grace” (Snodgrass 194). God acts first; we respond. God calls us through the gospel; we align our walk accordingly. Since God has acted in history through Christ (chs.1-3), we have an obligation to live a holy lifestyle (chs.4-6). The orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right practice) are inseparable and in fact are closely tied together throughout this epistle. The problem with some Christians is that we have a million dollar salvation and a five-cent response. They seem unimpressed with God’s salvation or bored of it or just really don’t care. If any of us has held a low view of God’s calling, repent.
2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
With all humility and gentleness: Humility is thinking of self in a right or true way in relation to 1) God & 2) fellow man. Don’t think to highly or too lowly of yourself. Think rightly & live accordingly . Gentleness or “meekness” (KJV) is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) cultivated in Christians to maintain unity. It is a disposition of submissiveness & consideration toward others.
With patience…in love: Patience has to do with endurance of injury & perseverance. “A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion” (Trench). Paul says we need this with one another,”i.e. with brothers/sisters in Christ. We are patient and bear with one another in love. We are seeking the highest purpose and greater good of one another. The highest purpose and greatest good for all of us is of course to see Christ in one another.
This verse is about our relationship to one another. Christianity is relational by nature. We are not spiritual Rambos/Chuck Norris’; we are part of the community of the redeemed which means we must interact with others. So we humility, gentleness, patience, love. We need to get rid of self-centeredness, hostility, our own agendas and hobby horses, even our own self interests if are going to properly demonstrates these Christian virtues. We should recognize that all of us at times have been a burden and a pain to others. It happens; we’re human. But we are bound to our brothers in Christ and we must determine not to let them go. “Oh, love that will not let me go…” While that is talking about God’s love, it is certainly appropriate for our love to one another.
3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eager…the Spirit: These Christians have this unity; they got it from the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Author of this unity. Christians are continually pursuing or guarding this unity, ready and willing to exert energy and effort in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
In the bond of peace: Peace is wrought by Christ (2.14-17). Whatever hostility there may have been between men before Christ saved them is eliminated. Combativeness & carelessness have no place in the church. What remains is the cord of peace tied with the knot of Christ’s blood.
The proper practice of verse 2 feeds into verse 3. In their day, Jews & Gentiles together sought to maintain what God had procured in Christ: the unity of the Spirit. Today, we have an obligation to do the same. To fulfill this obligation requires the obliteration of self. “Self kills peace” (Barclay 165). When we deny self and crucify self, Christ can live in and through us. The church then can fully maintain the unity and oneness God has achieved.
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
There is one body: throughout the Ephesian epistle, Paul uses this image for the church and of which Christ is the Head (e.g. 5.23).
One Spirit: the Holy Spirit of God through whom we have access to the Father (2.18). He animates the body. Soma cannot live without pnuema.
Just as…to your call: The Christian’s hope is the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven. To this we have been called (1.18, 4.1). It’s personal – you were called to this.
5 one Lord, one faith,one baptism,
One Lord: Jesus Christ
One faith: in Christ. Debate exists about whether this is the body of truth or one’s belief in Christ.
One [immersion]: into the possession of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28.19).
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
One God…in all: the supreme Being of all, the Father, who is the fountain of all being. the unity of the Spirit which we the church “maintains” is centered on seven (7) ones. Paul paints, stroke by stroke, the basis of unity upon which the admonition rests. Pictured here is a God who is actively involved in His world. He is supremely sovereign over all things and yet He is “through all” providentially at work in the world. No person is beyond His reach. He is “in all” as He sustains everything. Barclay puts it succinctly: “It is the Christian belief that we live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world” (168).
These seven (7) ones show us that Paul is not talking about unity at any cost. Unity is founded upon Christ – our faith in Him and knowledge of Him. So there are limits to unity. Should someone deny one of these seven “ones” then there is an interruption in unity. For example,
- Body: Should someone say “one church is as good another,” we should respond that there is but one body, the church, not a multiplicity of rival societies.
- Spirit: Should someone claim that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force, like electricity, we should respond that like the Father or Son the Spirit is a person of the Godhead.
- Hope: Should someone say all the righteous will just end up on a renovated earth, we should reply that we will be with the Lord where He is someday.
- Lord: should someone “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4), then of course we should take issue as Jude did in his day.
- Faith: Should someone claim that all faiths are just different roads up the same mountain, we should respond by pointing out that only faith in the one Lord will suffice.
- Immersion: should someone deny that baptism is essential for salvation, then we should likewise take issue.
- God: If someone claims that there is a plurality of gods or no God at all…